By Walter Makaula
(KHNL) - Hanauma Bay is celebrating a huge milestone this month. Forty years ago, it was declared a marine life conservation district, making it the oldest one on Oahu.
The bay is the most popular spot to snorkel on Oahu.
Up to a million visitors stop by each year, and that can pose a big threat to the environment.
But some say, Hanauma Bay is far better than its ever been.
Arsenio Cachero of Ewa says, "It's better... I think right now compared to before, the information that's given to the visitors, and the way it looks is more appealing."
During the 1980's, up to ten thousand people came through the gates each day, and that trashed the bay. Parts of the reef started to die, fish populations decreased, and people were taking home the sand and coral. But in the 1990's, officials started limiting the number of visitors allowed at the bay.
Alan Hong, the Hanauma Bay Manager says, "Any bit of pressure you can take off the natural resource, off the corals and stuff, will be beneficial. So we've reduced it (visitor count) to one third and we're beginning to see corals coming in the reefs where we haven't seen it in years and years. So things look very promising."
But not everyone agrees.
Joe Vaccarella is visiting from Canada. He says, "It was very very disappointing. There's a lot of people damaging the reef here. They're standing on it. They're damaging it. And I'm not happy at all to see what I saw. I've been here for only about an hour and I had to leave because I was getting too upset."
His suggestion is to close down the bay, and let it re-generate without any disturbances from the public.
Because he says, "if they keep doing this, it's only going to damage it, and for our children's children there's never going to be anything here."